This session incorporates the key elements of both attacking and defending at pace. From the time spent coaching Ferencvaros in Hungary through to my involvement in the England Under-19 set-up, developing an individual’s skills through passing, creating space, supporting, closing down, tracking and counter-attacking has always gone on to be of huge benefit to the team as a whole.
This drill has worked particularly well in Europe where teams tend not to press as much. And in England Under-19s’ 2-0 win over Slovakia, this set-up within a 4-3-3 formation enabled us to constantly retrieve balls in dangerous situations.
What do I get the players to do?
Players line up at each side of the marked area. The coach will serve the ball to alternate ends, a player receives, then moves forward supported by two team-mates. Three players from the opposition team approach from the other side. The aim of the team in possession is to interchange passes, evade tackles and eventually get the ball across the opposition line. A high tempo is central to this move.
If the ball goes out of play a new ball is served – vary its delivery in terms of pace and height. If an interception is made, the opposing team goes straight on the attack. After a minute of game time has elapsed, rotate players.
What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?
For the defending team, one man must go forward to close down. We look for individual and defensive awareness, the tracking of runners, plus the forcing of play down one channel. The key for the defence is to always be pressing to limit attackers’ passing options.
Attackers must always progress forward – no backward passes. They need to provide supporting options always, whilst also displaying individual skills in order to beat the man.
How do I progress the session?
Progress onto a 5v5 game, adding a goal and goalkeeper at each end. With more players, the emphasis should be for attackers to break in pairs and release runners. Defenders should aim to squeeze and compress play by getting as tight in as possible. Increase team numbers as suits, giving consideration to also increasing the size of the playing area, should the need arise.
How would you put this into a game situation?
Adapt to 11v11 but retain a pitch size that is less than standard dimensions so that defenders appreciate the benefits of squeezing attacking play, while attackers use the exercise to perform a tight, accurate forward passing game in a restricted space.